By Justin J.
Chapter 1 – The Alias
He had chosen his lair long before he went to the council. Using his game piece minions, especially made for building things, he built himself a tower on the outskirts of Eschalon City, along the South West coast of the United States. It was a tall, dark tower, built especially for the 'creep factor'.
Ringmaster was quite proud of the design. Filled with traps and obstacles, it was designed to mess with heroes, make their lives hell just for trying to get to him. His game piece minions were designed to come to life when a threat arrived.
Ringmaster had discovered ages ago that if he went too far from his pieces, they lost power. He strongly suspected that his dragon didn't actually kill anybody, as he had run far from the school as fast as possible, leaving without looking back.
But it still didn't make him feel any better. True, he wasn't exactly sane, but to outright murder? The thought made him ill. He new he was broken, that wanting to fight against the greater good that superheroes represented, simply because he was bullied in school and his first crush was put into a coma, was insane.
But he didn't care. He had used his powers on people, stripped away their free will. Used them and then discarded them, all memory of him erased, a black spot in their memories that they would never get back. Was he a monster?
Yes, he was, and he knew it. Aurora was a broken woman, she never truly recovered from her experiences two years previously. He had actively placed a restraint in her subconscious, preventing her from killing without a proper reason. A truly good reason.
Just ogling her wasn't a good enough reason for murder. Attempted rape or murder? That was a perfectly good reason to draw blood and possibly end a life.
For Aurora, anyway. For Ringmaster...not so much. He was insane, not a cold blooded murderer.
After all, even evil had standards.
In the Eschalon City branch of Hawke Industries, maker of figurines, comics, tabletop games, and trading card games, the C.E.O., Damien Orion Jackson, was sitting at his desk signing off on new figurine designs. While his company did manufacture figurines based on animé, manga, comic, television shows, and movies, their real speciality was original works.
The newest design was aptly named the 'myth series'. Figurines based on various mythos, brought to 'life' by some of America's best figurine sculptors. This new range was limited in supply, no mass production of them. Damien believed in quality over quantity. True, the tabletop and trading card games were mass-produced, but those were sold in droves, so it was unavoidable. Damien himself was a massive geek, though the stereotypical glasses and thin body type was absent.
No, Damien believed in keeping himself in the best physical shape possible. He woke up at dawn, ran through a rigorous training program, got cleaned up, had breakfast, and came to work. Even his office had workout equipment in it (along with figurines and posters of his favourite shows and games, along with a large TV and several gaming systems and games), and he used it on his breaks.
The intercom on his desk buzzed. "Sir? Miss November is here."
He pressed the speak button. "Send her in."
Damien was only 20 years old. A rising star in his brand of work, he was rich enough that he could retire and never have to worry about money again, but he loved his work. He loved creating things, sharing them with the world. He wasn't an artist, but he had a creative mind.
He knew fantasy, he knew how to make fantasy worlds work in tabletop games, and card games. He knew oh so well.
He leaned back in his chair, stretching as the attractive 19-year-old brunette walked into the office, dressed in a dark grey business dress-suit and high heels, her hazel eyes glinting in amusement as her boss rolled his broad shoulders and stood up.
"Karen," he said, nodding. The woman nodded curtly at her employer.
"You look bored, Damien," she said. "Slow day?"
Damien shrugged and ran a hand through his short black hair. "Yeah. I'm thinking about heading home early, testing out the new card sets we're making."
"By playing against yourself?" Karen smiled. "You need a social life."
"I have a social life," Damien replied. "I have a tournament coming up soon, and I'll be making a special appearance at the release tournament for the new set in a month."
"All work related," Karen countered. "Get a girlfriend or something."
Damien shrugged. "No time for one."
He stood up, smiling.
"How are the plans for our first...appearance coming?"
"Oh, very well," replied the woman. "The location is set, and I've timed it so that it will be empty except for the night staff, who can be evacuated easily."
Damien turned and stared out of the window, dark eyes taking in the view of the city below them. "Good. Tonight the local heroes meet Ringmaster and Aurora."
Karen's smile grew rather cold. "Of course, Master. Of course."
Ringmaster's chosen supervillain outfit was all white, really. Not to symbolise purity or some such rubbish (because, really, he was far from pure), but because white wasn't a colour, it was the total absence of colour.
As such, it was his favourite 'colour', even if it wasn't a colour. It symbolised his total absence of caring, his lack of being able to care.
Not that anybody would know that, aside from Aurora. A white longcoat, closed at the waist with buckles (also white), that brushed the ground as he walked. The longcoat was worn over equally white body armour (being naturally bullet-proof was not one of his abilities), which was worn under a white shirt. He also wore white jeans and white long boots, held closed around his feet and legs by buckles, and white gloves.
He wore no mask, because he didn't need to. Magic existed, he knew this, and had found a spell to disguise his appearance, making it impossible for people to remember his face. Sure, it sounded like something out of a magical girl manga, but it worked.
Aurora had the same spell applied to her. No point in taking chances. Ringmaster also didn't carry any weapons. He felt that he didn't need them...because he didn't. Instead, lining the inside of his jacket, were pockets containing tabletop game pieces. All the older models made by Hawke Industries, and he also had a carrier bag on him at all times, filled with even more pieces, as well as action figures he could easily bring to life.
Ringmaster liked to be prepared. He had found martial arts masters to train him and Aurora in the fighting arts over the course of two years, as well as weapon training (knives, swords, guns, etc.), all to work towards being competent supervillains.
Aurora had a more natural aptitude for the fighting arts than he did. Ringmaster wasn't a bad fighter, far from it, it was just that Aurora had the instinct for it, she knew how to strike and disable opponents, how to throw a knife to take the gun out of a person's hand. Her favourite melee weapon (which she didn't take with her into the council chambers) was surprisingly non-lethal, a bo-staff that she could use with ease and speed.
Despite the platonic nature of their relationship, Ringmaster loved to watch Aurora kick the crap out of people with her bo-staff. That she looked incredibly sexy in that dark blue catsuit she wore as her villain outfit.
Not that he would ever try anything. She had intimacy issues because of what those monsters did to her two years ago. And now, as the two evacuated the night guards of a small museum in the city, he was enjoying watching her play with the guards, chasing them out.
She caught his look and smirked, waving a finger at him. "Look no touch," she said. "Even you won't be spared my revenge, Master."
Ringmaster smirked and dropped down from the rafters where he had been hiding. "Now we wait," he said. "The police will come first, and after we make it clear that they can't take us, they'll call the local heroes."
"That General doesn't think very highly of them," Aurora mused. "Then again, he doesn't seem to respect anybody."
"Especially Onyx," Ringmaster said, frowning. "He kept ogling her in that meeting."
"You think she's hot, don't you?"
"I won't lie, I do think she's freakin' hot. And she knows it."
"And her dress might as well be painted on. I know you think I'm hot."
"Aurora, my dear lieutenant, any male with their head on straight will think you're hot. Because you are."
"You flatter me, Master."
"This is the Eschalon Police Department! We have you surrounded! Surrender yourself!"
Ringmaster grinned in a rather feral manner. "Oh, good, the hapless police are here. Remember, Aurora, no killing."
His lieutenant pouted. "You keep saying that, but I haven't killed anybody since that one guy in Germany."
"Well, he did deserve it I suppose."
"He tried to rape me. I wasn't going to let that slide."
The two walked to the entrance,and Ringmaster threw the doors open and waved at the police. "Hello! My name is Ringmaster! This is my lieutenant Aurora...and you will learn to fear us."
With that proclamation he reached into his jacket and threw a single item at the police. It was one of his custom pieces, a mage specialising in sound magic. The moment the piece hit the hood of a car, Ringmaster activated it. The piece turned into a robed old man with a long white beard, holding up a gnarled black staff.
He raised the staff and cast a spell. There was a glass-shattering explosion of soundand a flash of light that outright stunned the entire force. Ringmaster and Aurora removed their sunglasses and ear plugs as the sound mage returned to its master and reverted to a game piece.
Ringmaster put the figure away and turned around. "Come, we wait for the heroes."
Aurora nodded and walked into the museum. Ringmaster followed and closed the doors behind him.
The call went out. There was a new supervillain in town and he had apparently just killed a large force of police. The two heroes that answered the call were the only two that were in the city at the moment. A man and a woman, they worked together for years, facing off against supervillains.
Especially the General. He was, technically, the weakest of the fabled Council (which, honestly, they weren't sure if it even existed), and they defeated him on a regular basis, but he was a rather powerful opponent.
At least physically. The man had insane levels of strength and endurance, using his ki to enhance his power. The man wasn't a superhuman in the strictest sense of the word, he just had a hell of a lot of training and experience in fighting.
And he had no problems with taking life. That much had been made clear when the two had lost their old leader to the man. He had snapped his neck like a twig and just tossed the body off a building. Then he beat the two remaining heroes so badly that they were out of commission for a month.
If this new villain was the same way, they would not hold back...and it seemed he was, if the reports were true.
And then they arrived at the museum. It was quickly apparent that the police were quite alive, just stunned. The woman blinked, vivid green eyes turning to her partner. "Nobody is dead," she said. "He just stunned them."
The man nodded, looking quite grave. His dark brown eyes narrowed at the sight of the stunned police, and he ran a gloved hand through his deep black hair. A handsome man, he was six feet tall, muscular, and wore a black bodysuit and boots with a golden dragon wrapping around the entire suit.
"Yeah. What's his game?"
His partner shook her head and tugged on her blond curls. Shorter than him by a full head, she was, he had to admit, utterly beautiful and drop dead sexy. Despite the seriousness of the situation, his eyes were drawn to her rather impressive cleavage, held up by the dark red tank-top. She wore a crimson half-skirt over red tights and black knee-high boots.
A cape with a lightning bolt on the back completed her outfit.
"Siggeir, stop staring at my chest," she snapped. "Get your head in the game and out of the gutter."
"Sorry, Voltra," Siggeir said. "Anyway, let's get in-"
A golem, an actual, honest to goodness, stone golem crushed a car as it landed in front of them, swinging a massive arm at Voltra. She jumped back as Siggeir blocked the blow, grunting as his feet dug into the concrete.
"What the hell?"
The golem shoved Siggeir back and swung both arms down on him. The young hero blocked the blow, and was sent to his knees. The pavement cracked beneath him and he growled before shoving the golem back and leaping forward, smashing his fists into the golem's head and staggering it.
He didn't let up, smashing his fists into the creature of stone over and over again. But it didn't go down, instead reaching up and grabbing Siggeir's arms and throwing him into a car with enough force to crush it.
Voltra slammed her hand against a car, drawing on the electricity in the vehicle and sending a bolt of lightning at the golem. It barely seemed to notice as the attack washed over its stone form without any real effect.
And then Siggeir recovered and picked up a car, charging forward and swinging it at the golem with all of his strength. The impact sent it crashing across the street and into a wall. It got right back up and charged, smashing a pair of cars at Siggeir.
Voltra got in front of her partner, draining power from nearby cars and sent a bolt at each car, causing the petrol to ignite in the tanks and explode. She drained more power from the rest of the cars and created a barrier of lightning to block the flaming cars.
Siggeir shot around the barrier and tackled the golem, picking it up as he ran and ploughing headlong through an incomplete building. The building came down around them, but Voltra just sighed.
"Why can't he ever do anything without destroying a building?"
Author's Notes: Enter the heroes! Yay! Or not. Maybe.